Blue Badge scheme to be extended to those with “hidden” disabilities

21 June 2019

New guidance has been published by the Department of Transport on the administration and enforcement of the Blue Badge disabled parking scheme.

The new guidance has been written for local authorities in England following an extensive independent review of the scheme undertaken by Integrated Transport Planning Ltd (ITP). Local authorities are urged to ensure that it is brought to the attention of all officers involved in the administration and assessment of applications, issue of badges and parking enforcement. It replaces the previous guidance issued in 2014.

The Blue Badge scheme is a well-established mechanism for helping people with disabilities that affect their mobility by providing dedicated parking for them close to shops and other facilities. The scheme applies to drivers and passengers. Badges need to be renewed every three years.

The new guidance introduces key changes to the criteria for applying for the scheme. These changes mean that, in future, the scheme will be extended to include people with “hidden” disabilities, such as mental health issues and those who cannot walk as part of a journey without psychological distress or the risk of serious harm. The change will apply from the 30 August 2019. It follows a finding in the independent review that people with such issues experience the same travel and parking problems as those with physical disabilities. It includes people with conditions such as dementia and autism.

Announcing the publication of the new guidance, Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson said:

“It’s unacceptable that people with hidden disabilities still face discrimination when using disabled facilities like parking spaces.

“Extending the Blue Badge scheme is a watershed moment in ensuring those with hidden disabilities are able to travel with greater ease and live more independent lives.”

To help councils with the expected increase in applications, a fund of £1.7 million is being provided by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in the first year of the programme.

The publication of the expanded scheme coincides with the launch of a new task force to toughen up enforcement and help councils tackle the fraudulent use of badges. At the end of 2018, the Local Government Association estimated that the theft of Blue Badges had risen by 45% in 12 months and increased six-fold since 2013.

The review will look at ensuring Blue Badges are used correctly and at how public understanding can be improved so that those with hidden disabilities can use the badges with confidence. A task group will be set up with key organisations to gather ideas and evidence on how to improve the consistency of council enforcement.

The updated June 2019 guidance, Blue Badge Scheme Local Authority Guidance (England), can be downloaded from the GOV.UK website.

Th updated guidance applies to local authorities in England only. The Scottish Government, Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly all provide separate guidance for their own Blue Badge schemes.